Late last year, on December 29th, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) made a decision to transition from a net metering to a net billing model for residential solar installations, a move criticized by environmental group The Sierra Club, which claims it will render rooftop solar “unreachable” for many households.
The decision, prompted by an application from state utility Idaho Power, officially took effect on January 1st. According to analysis by The Sierra Club, the policy shift is anticipated to reduce compensation for excess power from an average of 8.8 US cents per kWh to 5.96 cents per kWh, as net billing will now be calculated using time-adjusted rates on an annual basis, deviating from the previous kWh-for-kWh exchange rate based on retail prices.
Prior to the vote, Idahoan community groups and representatives from the solar industry had voiced opposition to the proposal. Alex McKinley, owner of Idaho-based solar installer Empowered Solar, expressed concerns, stating, “Rooftop solar is an extremely popular and effective way of combating the climate crisis, stabilizing power bills, and putting power back in the hands of everyday people, and Idaho Power wants to minimize it.”
In response to the decision, the Idaho PUC emphasized that on-site generation should primarily offset a customer's own usage, avoid cost shifting between generators and non-generators, and ensure fair compensation for exported energy.
Critics of net metering policies argue that they can lead to increased electricity rates for non-self-generating customers, a contention disputed by solar advocates. Additionally, on December 28th, the PUC approved an increase in rates for Idaho Power customers through a monthly fixed fee known as the “service charge,” a move criticized by The Sierra Club for its potential disproportionate impact on low-income and energy-conscious households.
The decision by the Idaho PUC echoes similar debates and opposition seen in California regarding net metering and virtual net metering changes over the past year. The ramifications of such decisions are being closely watched, with concerns raised about potential impacts on the affordability of solar installations and the solar industry's overall health.